It was while working at a summer job, Ryan Walicki found his focus and pathway into the tech space. He found clarity in the tangled wires of a server room, and he hasn’t looked back ever since.
With the simple thought of not accepting mediocrity, Ryan and his partners created Relish, a platform that Strategically extends enterprise applications to maximize investment.
In this interview, Ryan Walicki shares his ideas related to team success, learnings, his journey, and more.
What according to you makes one an innovative leader? How do you integrate the same thought into your leadership?
I have always believed in a flat operational model that creates space for any team member to provide thought leadership which often manifests as innovation. Innovative leaders recognize their team – the whole team, have great ideas, and are given the space to be creative, often yielding an array of ideas, thoughts, and concepts that can help shape where a company is, where they want to be and how to get there.
To complement that, it is important innovative leaders are tuned into the market at large – spending time with customers, partners, and even competitors – asking insightful questions and really listening will provide a broader lens into the art of possible.
For me personally, it is having that flat operational structure, where every role is an important one for team success. Soliciting and creating spaces for everyone to participate and offer their thoughts, concepts, and ideas. Beyond that, with great intent, spending time building external relationships across several personas to ensure I have the big picture view to test others’ ideas, our own ideas to point the compass in a well-thought-out direction.
Talk to us about your growing up years. What is your earliest memory as a leader that you can remember?
I am Canadian originally, so naturally hockey is my earliest memory. At age 15 I moved away from home to play Jr. Hockey which entails living with a billet family. I still today have fond memories of all the billet families I lived with. So here you are at 15 on your own essentially. Motivate yourself to go to school, get to practice and take care of yourself to perform athletically at a serious level.
While I had my learnings in this phase of life, it taught me important lessons, which I apply to business today;
- Take care of yourself first – if you are in a good place and you are taking care of what is your responsibility, others will take note and follow your lead.
- Care about others – build strong relationships and understand people not only professionally but personally as well.
- Thrive on being responsible and accountable.
- Intentional success is so much more rewarding than accidental success.
- It’s a team sport. The name on the front is more important than the name on the back.
What prompted your interest and subsequently your foray into the tech space?
I was fortunate enough to have a summer internship during high school, where I was supporting my brother-in-law, who was then an IT Director at a large scaling tech firm.
My summer job was to literally crawl under every desk in the building, and map all the landlines back to the server room – so literally, ground floor tracing wires to wires all over the building. I loved it.
Seeing how digital information is stored, shared, distributed, and secured was my first real-world exposure to the power of tech. From that point forward, it was my focus.
What was the idea that led to the start of Relish? What was the pain point that you wanted to address?
For the previous 15 years, I was an Enterprise Software consultant – selling and delivering enterprise software services. Across the hundreds of projects, I was involved in, there was a simple outcome – enterprise software almost never delivers the benefits anticipated at the beginning. To make matters worse, people just got used to accepting that.
Accepting that mediocre was good. Seeing these challenges and being a part of them really always left me dissatisfied. As a group of us started to distill where those challenges live, we came to the realization that we could build complementary solutions to solve these problems. Our mission is to enable customers to realize 100% of the value they expected from their enterprise software investments.
As the Founder, what role do you play in the day-to-day proceedings of the company?
What role don’t I play! In the day-to-day, I frame it into 4 buckets, which guide my agenda.
- Nuts and Bolts – invoices, payments, expenses, cash position, forecasting, KPI review. This is my pre-dawn (or some days post-dawn!) exercise, just checking into the heartbeat of the company.
- Talking to Teammates – in sales, product, dev ops, and marketing. Connecting with the team either on a particular topic or just to have a chat.
- In prospect meetings, internal discussions, external discussions.
- Whether tip of the spear (where are we going) or working my own list of prospects and partners, a good portion of my day is spent on growth and GTM.
Bottom line, my goal daily is to re-understand the business, contribute to the immediate team, and find time to think about and make progress on the journey further out.
Looking at your journey, what would you have done differently if you were to start again?
Focus. While this was a priority and reminder early – we spent many cycles on things that, as I reflect back, were not the best use of time. I do appreciate those cycles, however – finding that boundary of where does focus live and where chasing squirrels start is hard for any company to define, until you experience and feel it. And it is part of our story.
You learn so much – it is funny, when you stop to reflect on what your beliefs were 6-12 months ago, against what you know today, you realize how ‘uninformed’ you were just months ago. We try to remember that at the moment today, ‘hey in six months, what will my future self, think of this idea or concept?’
What would be your advice for young and aspiring leaders in today’s tech-driven world?
It takes a team.
The ’97 Detroit Red Wings had 16 to be Hall of Famers on their team. They won the Stanley Cup – not because of that talent level but because they all parked egos and accepted roles that enabled them to achieve a common purpose – win the Stanley Cup!
Know what your Stanley Cup is. Surround yourself with people that share that purpose. From there, it is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Finally, what does the future look like for Relish? On a personal front, where do you see yourself standing in the coming years?
Relish will continue to innovate in providing solutions for our enterprise software partners with the goal of maximizing end-user value.
We will continue to add new and innovative capabilities while building a platform to enable others to leverage our building blocks to deliver exponential solutions to the market. Relish will be the most used extension platform in enterprise software.
Personally, I want to be right here – in the thick of it. Succeeding on intent is measured not by revenue but by our impact on our partners and customers.